We've been discussing the merits and shortfalls of Byron Scott recently. There's been a lot of speculation on whether or not he might be fired, and, if he were fired, would he be a good coaching candidate for the Kings. I decided we might be well-served by gathering the perspective of someone who has followed Scott's recent career closer than we have.
At The Hive is the SBN blog for the Hornets, and it's run by atthehive. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and offer his take on Byron Scott.
Exhibit G: Thanks for agreeing to the interview. I've got a couple of different questions, but I was thinking I'd send you one question at a time, in case your response spawns another question.
My first question is: Do you think Byron Scott will be fired?
atthehive: No, I don't think so. There's a lot of anti-Scott sentiment floating around right now, especially regarding how he handled his post-game presser on the night of the 58 point loss and how "ready" he had the team. But the more the dust settles, the safer Scott's job becomes. Sean Marks was far and away the Hornets' best big man in the first round. Peja Stojakovic missed more wide open threes in the series than in his entire career in Sacramento. If these had been regular season games, David West, Tyson Chandler, and James Posey would all have been in the locker room. Basically, despite Scott's missteps, this would have been an incredibly difficult series for any coach in the league to win. I think this will only become more apparent as we move away from the immediate aftermath of the games themselves.
The second aspect is financial. Scott has one more year, and by all accounts, a costly one. But while the Hornets will look to shed salary this summer, they certainly have many non-Scott avenues to accomplish this. The few contacts I have all seem to think that Tyson Chandler will be moved immediately. New Orleans will no doubt explore every possible route to dump Mo Peterson and/or Peja. Simply getting under the luxury tax stands to help ownership out a ton. Overall, financial considerations are most likely to start on the player level, because that can solve short term and longer term cap issues.
The final consideration is Chris Paul. He's not likely to be very happy if/when Chandler is shipped out. The more players and personnel the team dumps, the more this starts to seem like "rebuilding" rather than "reloading." And if this franchise were to ever lose Chris Paul, well...
If Scott does get fired, I think it happens sooner rather than later, and I'd certainly be a little surprised
Ex G: Great insights. You mention that Paul likely would not be happy if Chandler leaves. There's been a lot of speculation that Scott has a history of "losing" his teams, and no longer being able to gain their buy-in. Some of this speculation has centered around Chris Paul, and whether or not he gets along with Scott. The flip-side is that he may have created an environment where his players are comfortable enough to be able to voice their disagreements openly.
Based on your observations, is it a concern that Scott might have lost the team's attention?
atthehive: I'm not really concerned on that front. Byron Scott has always been one of those coaches that messes around with players during practice, out of the gym, etc. I don't think a series in which the Hornets were over-matched does much to change that. As far as the whole New Jersey situation, I think the big issue was Scott losing Jason Kidd. Kidd was into his 30's at the time, and he really seemed to feel like if there wasn't a change made, he wouldn't have a chance at a ring. Chris Paul is still a young guy and hasn't given any indication that he doesn't believe in Scott's ability. As long as a coach can maintain the trust of his best player, I think the rest of the team really falls in step with that. It went poorly with Kidd, but things certainly seem different with Paul.
Ex G: Fair enough. We recently debated Eddie Jordan as a potential candidate over at StR. One of our discussions was in regards to W/L record compared to the talent available. Essentially trying to determine if a coach has under- or over-achieved with his roster. Byron Scott has had relative success in New Orleans (and New Jersey, obviously), but I'm curious to gather your take. Do you think Byron Scott has underachieved, overachieved, or met expectations with his rosters in New Orleans?
atthehive: On the defensive end, Scott has certainly overachieved. The Hornets fielded a Sean Marks/Hilton Armstrong front court for more than half of the year; for the squad to finish top 10 defensively is really quite remarkable, given how sad those two individuals are on the defensive end. He definitely excels at putting mediocre defensive players in positions to succeed, via his schemes. On the offensive end, I'd say he's underachieved. His primary flaw is the inability to adapt to different types of defenses. He tends to go to the same plays over and over, with very little strongside to weakside movement, and heavy reliance on isolation or two-man offense. A healthy Chris Paul/David West/Tyson Chandler trio covered up those shortcomings adequately in 2007-2008, but minus good health, 2008-2009 was a different story due to Scott's lack of innovation.
Overall, he's about met expectations. If you take a step back and look at the big picture... a core of Paul/West/Chandler has, in 2 seasons, realistically threatened to make the WCF one time. With a horrible bench, that seems about right.
Ex G: One final question. Is there anything else you'd like to say regarding Byron Scott that I didn't cover?
Haha, yeah probably one thing.
Byron likes to exude this steely demeanor on the sideline, and that ruffled a lot of feathers when the team was losing. Bill Simmons had this whole thing in November about how Scott had lost the Hornets due to the way he stood and talked to players on the court. But I think he gets along with players a lot better than most people assume. Off the court, he's always doing stuff with players, going out to dinner with Tyson and Peja, going to Chris Paul's bowling events, and on and on. If Scott does indeed hit the open market, I think his on-court demeanor and situation in New Jersey will give teams some pause, in terms of player-coach relationships, but it really shouldn't.
Yep, that's about it I think.